New Philadelphia Ordinance Protects Employees Who Blow the Whistle on Unsafe Workplaces During COVID-19

On Friday, June 26, 2020, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed the Essential Workers Protection Act, providing protections to workers who speak out about unsafe workplace conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ordinance, which is touted as the first of its kind in the United States, was supported by more than two dozen labor, advocacy and nonprofit organizations in Philadelphia.

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The Philadelphia Area Transitions from Red Phase to Yellow, Allowing More Business Activity

On April 22, Governor Tom Wolf outlined a three-phase plan for reopening Pennsylvania businesses, following a color-coded system: Red, Yellow and Green. As the COVID-19 threat continues to slow, each county has been moving gradually through the phases. According to the Commonwealth, the phases are designed to decrease the continued spread of COVID-19 while relaxing restrictions and promoting the resumption of business activity.

Following is a brief description of each phase:

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Third Circuit Upholds Philadelphia Ban on Salary History Inquiries

In early February 2020, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals decided that a Philadelphia ordinance passed years ago could go into effect and that Philadelphia employers will no longer be able to ask job applicants about their salary history in job interviews and related contexts.

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Philadelphia Enacts a Fair Workweek Law

On December 6, 2018, the Philadelphia Council voted 14-3 to pass a Fair Workweek bill, which Mayor Kenney is expected to sign. Once signed, the ordinance would take effect on January 1, 2020, and is expected to impact roughly 130,000 workers. The Fair Workweek ordinance will apply to employers with more than 250 employees and over 30 locations (including Philadelphia) worldwide. It will require employers in the retail, fast-food, and hospitality industries to provide advance written notice of work schedules and predictability pay to their service workers. Other cities that enacted similar Fair Workweek laws include New York, San Francisco, San Jose, Emeryville and Seattle.

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Update: Philadelphia Salary History Ban Decision Appealed

As we previously reported, a federal district court in Philadelphia recently struck down the provision of Philadelphia’s salary history ban prohibiting employers from asking about salary history (the “inquiry provision”), but upheld the provision of the law prohibiting employers from relying on such information (the “reliance provision”). The law was initially scheduled to take effect May 23, 2017, but had been stayed by the district court pending resolution of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s challenge to the law. The Judge’s decision ostensibly resolved the litigation at the district court level, however, both the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Philadelphia have appealed the ruling to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The Third Circuit has not yet issued an order staying the reliance provision, which the district court upheld. We therefore caution Philadelphia employers to act as though the reliance provision is in full effect, and to refrain from relying on salary history information in determining employees’ compensation. We will continue to report on the appellate process as it unfolds.